Hamels hopes to pitch Cubs to sweep of Marlins

The visiting Chicago Cubs, with veteran left-hander Cole Hamels on the mound, will go for a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night.

Hamels (2-0, 3.79 ERA) allowed five runs in five innings in his 2019 debut, escaping with a no-decision. Since then, he has made two consecutive quality starts, totaling 14 innings and allowing just three runs.

In fact, Hamels has gotten stronger in each start this season, holding the Los Angeles Angels to just one run on four hits and no walks in eight innings last Friday.

"He's a competitive guy," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He wants to get back to the World Series, and he's setting a great example for the rest of the group."

Certainly, the Cubs have been playing better of late, winning five of their past seven games, including a 4-0 victory over the Marlins on Tuesday. During this seven-game stretch, the Cubs are allowing an average of just 2.0 runs per game.

Meanwhile, the struggling Marlins have lost 12 of their past 14 games.

Miami's starting pitcher on Wednesday will be right-hander Sandy Alcantara (1-1, 4.24 ERA), whose fastball has touched 100 mph. However, Alcantara, 23, has made just nine major league starts and is still learning how to pitch at this level.

He looked great in his 2019 debut, pitching eight scoreless innings in a win over the heavy-hitting Colorado Rockies. He struck out six and walked none in that outing.

Since then, however, he has allowed 15 hits, seven walks and eight runs in nine innings. He had a 14-7 groundball-to-fly-out ratio in his first start, but that has flipped to 16-19 in his past two games.

Another problem for Miami is its offense. The Marlins got just seven hits on Tuesday -- one double and six singles -- and got no one past second base.

Center fielder Lewis Brinson is a good example of Miami's failings on offense. He was the key player the Marlins got back in the trade that sent Christian Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers prior to last season.

Yelich won a batting title and the National League MVP award for Milwaukee, batting .326 with 34 doubles, seven triples, 36 homers, 22 steals and 110 RBIs. He is off to another hot start this season, as he is tied for the league lead with nine homers and ranks first with 25 RBIs.

Brinson, despite great numbers in the minors, has come up empty often in the majors, hitting .199 in 382 at-bats last season. He is batting .197 this season.

"Generally, mechanically, he's coming off on the bottom of the bat," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Brinson. "These are some of the things we saw last year.

"He's not staying on the ball away. As the ball goes away, he is running out of bat. We are trying to get him to stay on the ball away and stay in the middle of the field."

Mattingly said Brinson "gets a better view" against left-handers, which could bode well for him against Hamels.

Brinson is batting .180 with a .521 career on-base-plus-slugging percentage against right-handers. His numbers are slightly better against lefties -- .215 batting average and a .670 OPS.

Interestingly, both center fielders in this series -- Albert Almora Jr. for Chicago and Brinson of the Marlins -- are 24-year-olds from South Florida who were drafted in the first round in 2012.

But while Brinson is struggling from team and individual perspectives, Almora -- hitting just .213 -- has made some excellent catches in this series, helping position the Cubs for a sweep.

Hamels, in his career against the Marlins, is 10-15 with a 3.45 ERA in 38 starts. Alcantara has made two career appearances against the Cubs, both in relief for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2017, allowing two unearned runs in 1 2/3 innings.

--Field Level Media